No blog series about the bears of Katmai would be complete without a profile of 410.
Any bear at Brooks Camp has the capacity to cause a human traffic jam (see our recent post), but Bear 410 (nicknamed “Four Ton” because she’s one of the largest females in the park) goes above and beyond. So renowned is her ability to shut things down that she’s been called “queen of the bear jams.”
410 takes epic siestas, but it’s not just the length of the naps that’s an issue; it’s also where she chooses to take them. She sleeps wherever she wants, including near high-traffic spots around the Brooks River bridge. A favorite place is under the Lower River Platform, and when she scoots that big booty under the ramp and settles in for a doze, she single-handedly halts movement at the bridge.
She’s such a sound sleeper that staff once suspected she was deaf. She’s not. Rather, she’s so thoroughly habituated to people that no amount of human-made noise is going to disturb her sleep.
In the Bears of Brooks Falls ebook, the National Park Service describes 410 thus: “She is arguably the most human-habituated bear to be found using the Brooks River, even while caring for cubs. 410 has been observed with people and heavy equipment operating within 15 meters. She will sleep on the trail near the bridge, on the beach near the visitor center and lodge, and in front of or underneath the wildlife viewing platform.” Any effort to haze her away from these places has been spectacularly unsuccessful.
She doesn’t just sleep where she wants to; 410 has been known to fish all over the area, including at Brooks Falls with the adult males, and the presence of humans doesn’t affect where she fishes. The ebook also describes her distinctive eating habits: “In September and October, bear 410 often sits in the river and holds her chin high when she eats salmon.” We were there in September, but we never actually saw her eat or do much of anything! The only activity of any kind that we witnessed was when she dug a belly hole (so that she could sleep more comfortably):
410 was first identified as a spring cub in 1989 and then as a subadult in 1992. She was likely the cub of a sow known as Bear 1 “Goatee” and had one sibling, but it was killed by a boar. 410 survived the encounter by climbing a tree.
She continues to be a survivor, and her Facebook profile attributes her longevity thus: “You like to eat. You like to sleep. You mind your own business. Maybe that’s why you’re the oldest known bear at Brooks River.”
She’s had 29-plus years to acclimate to humans, and she knows she can do just about anything she wants. She sprawls with abandon and sleeps with impunity, leaving humans to scurry about her. And that’s exactly the way it should be at Brooks Camp, a place where bears rule supreme.
Classic 410 videos: